Negation - No and Not

These two little words are used to negate - to make something negative. But which one to use when?​

Open Argot Top Tip!

A useful 'rule of thumb' is to remember this:

  • Use no before nouns with an article, and with -ing words

  • Use not for nouns without an article, and in most other cases!

It should help with most circumstances you come across!

When do we use 'No'?

To Answer Questions:

“Do you think English grammar is easy?” 

“Have you always lived in Tokyo?”

“No, I used to live in Hokkaido.”

Before noun phrases without an article

“I have no time for this!”

“The boy had no idea where he’d put his mobile phone.”

“There’s no point crying over spilt milk.”

“I looked on Amazon, but there were no red party hats.”

“In Baja California they have a saying: ‘No bad days’.”

Before '-ing' words (Often a command)

“No smoking!”
“No diving in the pool!”
“There is no fishing allowed on the lake.”
"We're in this together now - there's no going back!"

When do we use 'Not'?

Before noun phrases with an article

Please, not the politicians again!”
“I liked the red party hats, not the green ones!”
“I want to enjoy good days, not bad days.”
“It wasn’t the best holiday, but Peter still enjoyed it.”


(Remember, "n't" is short for "not")

Before any, much, many, enough

“There’s not much milk left, I’ll go and get some more.”

“We have a problem at dinner - there are not enough seats for everyone.”

“Not many people in Scotland enjoy cricket, but I do.”

To negate a verb

“Your car is not going very fast.”
“We’re not going on holiday this year.”
“John liked her, but he wasn’t cooking for her.”

Be Careful - Double negatives!

Unlike in some languages, in formal English we avoid ‘double negatives’.  So we don’t say


“I don’t have no time.” ❌   

Instead,  say “I don’t have time” or “I have no time.” ✅

“I didn't do nothing!” ❌ 

Instead,  say  "I didn't do anything!" or "I did nothing!" ✅


Although this isn't considered good English, it's used in some regional accents and in slang.

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